THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Jerusalem, Israel) _____________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 6, 1995
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Renaissance Hotel Jerusalem, Israel
6:45 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: All right, good afternoon, good evening, or whatever time it is. I'll start with the truly consequential information. We're missing some cell phones that were lent to the pool. So if any people who were on pool -- you can't hear me? So if someone's got cell phones that we lent to the pool, please return them.
I don't have much to share except a couple of reflections that the President shared with me about the day. He was extremely moved by the service today and thought it had been -- it was very well-done and was very moving. He was especially moved by the remarks of King Hussein and struck, obviously, by the poignant irony that the King himself mentioned of his last journey here to Jerusalem, which was with his grandfather, King Abdullah.
Both the President and Mrs. Clinton were also very moved and touched and I think it's accurate to day, moved to tears, by the very eloquent eulogy given by Prime Minister Rabin's granddaughter. That was the most personal of all the statements made today, and I think captured for those who considered Yitzhak Rabin a friend the emotions that have been shared today with the President by everyone from Mrs. Rabin to members of the family that they had met during the day, to the Prime Minister's longtime and closest aides, all of whom at various points of the day today met with the President, shared their feelings with him and took some comfort in the condolences expressed by both the President and by Mrs. Clinton.
The President, at the gravesite or when they were preparing -- excuse me -- when they were preparing for the processional for the funeral today, have very brief exchanges with Prime Minister Major; President Chirac; Chancellor Kohl; Prime Minister Keating; Prime Minister Bruton President Mubarak, who, of course, he will see later this evening in a more extensive bilateral session; Secretary General Boutros Ghali; President Sali Berisha of Albania; and President Levon Barkhudaryan of Armenia. And also, Foreign Minister Kono of Japan. All of those were very brief discussions that the President described to me as an opportunity to share reminiscences about Prime Minister Rabin; certainly not occasions for heavy diplomatic work.
The President did have a very brief discussion with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, and the President asked after the health of President Yeltsin. And Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told him that President Yeltsin had asked him to convey to President Clinton that he was feeling much better, he was on his way to getting better, and looked forward to being in dialogue with President Clinton again soon.
The President had a bilateral meeting tonight with President Weizman. That was an occasion in which the two delegations reviewed first the formal structure for succession that will now occur in Israel, and they shared views on what type of coalition might be put together by Acting Foreign Minister Peres. As you know, the opposition has indicated their support for President Weizman's request to Acting Prime Minister Peres to form a government. They also reviewed the status of the peace process.
The point the President made privately to President Weizman was the same one that I gather he made publicly to the pool upon departure, that the broad cross section of U.S. political leaders here and the bipartisan nature of our delegation reflects the depth of emotion in America about the Prime Minister's assassination, but also the depth of support that exists for Israel and for the peace process.
The President was very touched by a story that I think all of you are now aware of. Senator Kennedy paused in the receiving line and told Mrs. Rabin that he had brought with him from the United States dirt from the gravesite of John F. Kennedy. She was very overcome with emotion at that, and asked that the Senator and his nephew, Patrick Kennedy, spread that dirt on the gravesite of Yitzhak Rabin, which they both did as most of the crowd left the gravesite. I think the Senator may have shared his feelings about that with some of you.
A short while ago, Acting Prime Minister Peres arrived
at the King David Hotel. He had asked for an opportunity to meet
with the members of the delegation that accompanied the President
here to Israel. He's having a session, short session, with Speaker
Gingrich, Majority Leader Dole, Minority Leaders Gephardt and
It was expected really just to review the status of the political climate here in Israel and then also prospects for further progress on the peace talks. If we have any specific thing that we learn from that meeting that we can share, we will later.
And finally, the President is looking forward to his bilateral meetings this evening that we've already told you about. Someone has asked whether he will see Mr. Netanyahu. I suspect that will happen, although everyone's schedules are necessarily a little complex right now as various people squeeze in a whole host of bilateral meetings.
Lastly, I'd like to, on behalf of the White House Press Office, extend our very warm congratulations and gratitude to the Renaissance Hotel, which has put together on very short notice a filing center that's as good as we get anywhere in the world, and they did it with far less of the time and preparation we normally have. And the real reason I came here is to sample some of that delightful buffet over there -- and to take any questions that any of you might have.
Q Did the President have a meeting with Peres today?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will see Acting Prime Minister Peres in a short while back at the King David Hotel.
Q I thought they'd already done that.
MR. MCCURRY: They saw each other briefly at the funeral, but they have not had their meeting yet, unless -- I think it may have started just a short while ago.
Q Mike, can you tell us anything, any further interactions since Air Force one of the two former Presidents and President Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have been together several times today. The President, as he met with Mrs. Rabin and members of the Rabin family, had a very warm exchange with them with a lot of affectionate memories of the Prime Minister. They told stories that I think left everyone with very happy memories. The President asked if he could introduce some of the other members of his delegation to the Prime Minister's family, and they were very gracious and said, of course. And the President began by introducing them to President Bush and President Carter.
Of course, Mrs. Rabin knew both of them, had met both of them, and they had a very nice reunion. The President then invited the former Secretaries in and other members of our delegation as well. And as the family departed, they had an opportunity to encounter most of the other high ranking officials that are here on the delegation.
Q Mike can you get back to the point about going over with Weizman a possible coalition? I'm not sure what you mean. Did Weizman tell him who might be in it? Did Clinton make some pitch on behalf of the wide spectrum -- I don't get it.
MR. MCCURRY: They did not do any substantive business related to the current political climate here in Israel. It was more an opportunity for the President to review the succession law and the basic law -- the information I think that you are probably well aware of already. But the President did reflect on what he thought would develop within the political culture of Israel. That's a subject that most Israelis are thinking about very intensely now as they recall the memory of Yitzhak Rabin. And it is one that, frankly, they are in a better position to speculate about than we are.
Q Did the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act come up in the -- with Peres? Did he raise it with the House leadership?
MR. MCCURRY: To my knowledge, they have not had their bilat -- I don't have a readout on their bilateral meeting yet. I don't know whether that came up or not.
Q Did the President seek out any information about the assassin or his views or the views he represents, or is that sort of a domestic issue that he -- because he's made a point about lowering rhetoric and all. Did he show any interest in this, pursue it at all with anybody?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, Barry. The President did not make inquiries about the law enforcement effort that's underway to learn more about the motive and nature of the assassin.
Q -- that type of thinking. Did he try to get an assessment --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he has had discussions with his advisers in the past and certainly in preparation for the visit here today about the current climate in Israel as it relates to the peace process. And we are -- certainly have been aware for sometime that there are very strong emotions that run on all sides of that question.
Q Mike, any disappointment at the absence of Saudi Arabia or Syria?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Syrian official government news agency has had some things to say and they are not entirely unpredictable. But I think that this was an occasion today devoted much more to the memory of Yitzhak Rabin than to any nuance discussion of the peace process itself.
Q Well, you had Oman and Qatar there. Was there any attempt made by the administration to coax the Saudis to send somebody?
MR. MCCURRY: There was no expectation on the part of the United States government that Syria would be represented at any high level at this occasion today.
Q My question was, was there any attempt made by the administration to coax the Saudis to come today.
MR. MCCURRY: I said there was no expectation on the part of our government that they would have any high level representative here.
Q Mike, the President's now had the opportunity to meet with several Israeli leaders, to participate in the ceremony, and to get perhaps a little bit of a mood of the country. What is his view about the future of the peace process? Aside from the details, generally does he feel like there's going to be a long pause --
MR. MCCURRY: The President shares the feelings of many of his peace team that are here today as well. Our encounters informally throughout the day with high-ranking officials of the government, members of the opposition, and even on occasion, average Israeli citizens indicate that there is a very determined attitude as it relates to the peace process. There is for a moment a shared sense of legacy as the Israeli people think about Yitzhak Rabin.
Certainly that doesn't gloss over the deep differences that do exist in Israel about the peace process, but those who have been responsible for the conduct of the peace process within the Israeli government seem ever more determined as result of the Prime Minister's assassination to press forward. What that will mean practically in terms of the process, we will have to know more about and understand as the days go ahead because this was not an occasion today for any type of detailed discussion of those issues.
But there is a sense that in honor of the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, those who remain within the government and those who will be responsible for the peace process are determined to do what they can to continue to build on the effort the Prime Minister laid.
Q Is there a sense that this might actually accelerate the peace process by sort of marginalizing the right a little bit?
MR. MCCURRY: That is the type of analysis that, frankly, we're not making at this point. We have refrained from any detailed commentary on the peace process or the prognosis for the future because our government just doesn't view that as appropriate at this time. There are many who are very knowledgeable about the process, who are analyzing that for all of you, and we share the opinions of many of those who are analyzing these developments. But our work lies in the realm of diplomacy. That will have to be conducted in the days ahead, again, with the very deliberate. disciplined approach that we've pursued to date in the Middle East peace process.
Q Is it very important, Michael, for Acting Prime Minister Peres then to quickly redouble his efforts for the peace process, and what sort of things does he need to do to unite and energize the country?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is a judgment that he is in the best position to make, and that would be best for him to comment upon. He will have an opportunity in the coming days to have numerous conversations with world leaders one exactly that point, and the Foreign Minister, now Acting Prime Minister, is very good at synthesizing those views and then applying them to his own approach when it comes to the peace process.
Q Does the President plan on raising again the question of the responsibility that political leaders all have for their speech and their words to the theme that you raised twice yesterday and on Air Force One and today at the funeral?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He made a passing reference to that last night, but that has not been the subject of any of his discussions today.
Okay. I'm still at this point not quite certain how we will do any type of readout on the meetings the President will have today. I suspect after talking to Ambassador Ross and Mr. Lake and others that it will be fairly minimal. So I don't want to imply to anyone that we've got any major news to convey as a result of these meetings. They will be consistent with the theme the President has pursued today that we do owe, as a lasting memory to Yitzhak Rabin, our best effort to pursue the peace process he did so much to advance.
And I think in all of his sessions the President has tonight both with President Mubarak, Acting Prime Minister Peres, most likely with the opposition leader as well, he will be stressing that point, much as he did with President Weizman earlier. And I suspect the readout will be very much along those lines. We are going to try to have someone who actually participates in the meeting who's not going back to Washington come back over to give you a little briefing later on.
Anything else before I close off for the evening? All right. See you all back in Washington.
END 7:00 P.M. (L)